A distorted portrait of God is understandable.
We easily slip into a distorted portrait of God because we cannot comprehend the infinite nature of God. But our faulty perspective of God will radically impact our life. The antithesis is also true—an accurate portrait of God will radically impact our life. Where did the distorted portrait of God originate?
Even before the world began there was a debate about how God should operate. Angelic beings and humans alike have contrived multiple ideas about God and how He should conduct the affairs of the universe. Similarly, we erroneously contrive our own portrait of God based on how we believe He should rule the world. Convinced that we have a better idea, we envision life from our skewed perspective.
But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.
They traded the truth about God for a lie.Romans 1:18–23, 25 NLT
The Deception Initiated
Lucifer initiated the subversion in heaven. In the perfect environment of heaven, Lucifer was created.
“You were the model of perfection,Ezekiel 28:12–13 NLT
full of wisdom and exquisite in beauty.
You were in Eden,
the garden of God.
Your clothing was adorned with every precious stone—
red carnelian, pale-green peridot, white moonstone,
blue-green beryl, onyx, green jasper,
blue lapis lazuli, turquoise, and emerald—
all beautifully crafted for you
and set in the finest gold.
They were given to you
on the day you were created.”
Lucifer served in God’s perfect presence.
I ordained and anointed youEzekiel 28:14 NLT
as the mighty angelic guardian.
You had access to the holy mountain of God
and walked among the stones of fire.
But even in the perfect environment of heaven, in God’s perfect presence, Lucifer believed he had a better plan than God.
Your heart was filled with prideEzekiel 28:17 NLT
because of all your beauty.
Your wisdom was corrupted
by your love of splendor.
“How you are fallen from heaven,Isaiah 14:12–14 NLT
O shining star, son of the morning!
You have been thrown down to the earth,
you who destroyed the nations of the world.
For you said to yourself,
‘I will ascend to heaven and set my throne above God’s stars.
I will preside on the mountain of the gods
far away in the north.
I will climb to the highest heavens
and be like the Most High.’”
Lucifer perpetrated his faulty belief system that he should be god. He convinced one-third of the angels that he had a better plan than God (Revelation 12:4).
So I banished you in disgraceEzekiel 28:16 NLT
from the mountain of God.
I expelled you, O mighty guardian,
from your place among the stones of fire.
God Begins His Design
Then God created the earth in splendor. In it, He placed humanity for His pleasure. The story unfolds in Genesis.
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.”Genesis 2:18 NLT
So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the LORD God took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the opening. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man.
“At last!” the man exclaimed.
“This one is bone from my bone,Genesis 2:21–23 NLT
and flesh from my flesh!
She will be called ‘woman,’
because she was taken from ‘man.’”
God’s perfect design enjoyed harmony with the environment and the inhabitants. Adam and Eve relished their communion with each other and God as they walked in the cool of the day. The fellowship was sweet and the food was completely provided. God made provision for all man’s needs.
Then God said, “Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. And I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—everything that has life.” And that is what happened.Genesis 1:29–30 NLT
God Leads His Creation
God even educated them about their responsibilities and established the government where His word was law.
The LORD God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. But the LORD God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden—except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”Genesis 2:15–17 NLT
As His significant creation, human beings were blessed and given the divine purpose to rule over His creation.
Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”Genesis 1:28 NLT
It was very good.
Satan Instigates Humanity’s Distorted Portrait of God
Still believing he could be god, Satan devised a plan in an attempt to subvert God’s design for humanity. By distorting Eve’s view of God, the trap was laid for all humanity. Genesis 3 tells the story.
The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”Genesis 3:1 NLT
Perhaps the serpent feared he would be discovered if he honestly said what he wanted to: “Can’t you see how God is depriving you? He made this beautiful fruit tree and won’t even let you have any of it. He sure is selfish!”
“Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”
“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman.Genesis 3:2–4 NLT
“God is being dishonest with you” was the underlying message the serpent conveyed.
“God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”Genesis 3:5 NLT
“The thing is God does not want you to be able to relate to Him. That’s why He doesn’t want you to eat that fruit. He really doesn’t want what’s best for you. You shouldn’t even trust Him.” This was the serpent’s subliminal implication.
Eve chose to believe the distortion.
Convinced God’s plan was not the best plan for her, Eve decided to elect Satan as the ruler of the world. Her subversive plan became preeminent. God had created the world and established all that is, but it seemed He was depriving her. If she followed Satan’s plan she could have more without God than she had by following God’s law. Satan instilled within Eve a heightened sense of self, and then manipulated her into thinking she was not given adequate appreciation. Persuaded she was incomplete with God, Eve ate the fruit.
The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.Genesis 3:6 NLT
Will I accept the distorted portrait of God?
Every temptation that threatens us is a temptation to live independently from God. Believing God cannot be trusted to govern our lives as we see fit, we must complete ourselves—we must be god in our lives. This idolatrous belief perpetrates arrogance and selfish ambition as we follow our own way with a distorted view of God and reality.
Reality is based on God’s absolute truth. If we don’t see the way God does, it cannot be said that we are in reality. Therefore, we are living in delusion—a lie. The only power Satan has is the power of the lie. If we can get rid of the lies, we get rid of his power.
Satan has no authority or power over you except what you yield to him when you are deceived into believing his lies.Victory over the Darkness by Neil Anderson
Few people live in reality. Most live in delusion based on lies.
A distorted portrait of God comes with consequences.
But then the trauma of truth enters. With the choice to live independently of God, caustic consequences come to pass. Where there was once no shame, shame and guilt appear.
Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.Genesis 2:25 NLT
For Adam and Eve, devising innovative solutions became their goal.
At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.Genesis 3:7 NLT
Profoundly altered as a result of their independent choices, Adam and Eve emerged possessing a different nature, manifesting a different character, and setting forth a different way of seeing life and experiencing God. No longer were they innocent before God. They were no longer in fellowship with God. No longer were they walking with God. Motivated by guilt, shame, and fear, Adam and Eve quickly collaborated to solve their dilemma: “How do we feel better about ourselves apart from God?” Innovation and creativity, once in service to God in naming the animals, produced the first line of designer clothing intended to cover their shame.
A distorted portrait of God creates delusions.
Delusions overrode reality, and they believed they could hide from God.
When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees.Genesis 3:8 NLT
Fear and anxiety develop into a dominant way of life.
Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”Genesis 3:9–10 NLT
He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.”
Then the exploitive, evasive tactics were initiated. Attempting to control the situation while avoiding the truth, Adam started by blaming God. Eve passed the blame to the serpent.
“Who told you that you were naked?” the Lord God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?”Genesis 3:11–13 NLT
The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.”
Then the Lord God asked the woman, “What have you done?”
“The serpent deceived me,” she replied. “That’s why I ate it.”
Blame and avoidance of personal responsibility are not new trends as we see in the garden encounter. There was a breakdown of interpersonal cohesion as the promotion and preservation of self emerged. In almost every personal and family crisis, we devise excuses and hypothesize explanations for wrongdoing as we seek to escape personal accountability.
A distorted portrait of God causes us to blame others.
In the 1960s the mantra was “The devil made me do it.” Then in the 1970s and 80s, “Dad and Mom made me do it.” Now, “My DNA makes me do it.” Humanity blames religion, family, and biology to avoid personal accountability to God. In our attempts to evade responsibility, we are still weaving fig leaves and hiding behind trees as God calls out, “Where are you?”
To emerge from our bondage we must be willing to view our plight as intricately reflecting our personal sinfulness. Passing the blame does not remove any of the consequences. All receive a penalty.
Then the LORD God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this, you are cursed
more than all animals, domestic and wild.
You will crawl on your belly,
groveling in the dust as long as you live.
And I will cause hostility between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
Then he said to the woman,
“I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy,
and in pain you will give birth.
And you will desire to control your husband,
but he will rule over you.”
And to the man he said,
“Since you listened to your wife and ate from the treeGenesis 3:14–19 NLT
whose fruit I commanded you not to eat,
the ground is cursed because of you.
All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it
It will grow thorns and thistles for you,
though you will eat of its grains.
By the sweat of your brow
will you have food to eat
until you return to the ground
from which you were made.
For you were made from dust,
and to dust you will return.”
Choosing distortions results in depression.
As the story of Adam and Eve develops we witness the depression and anger that enter under the new government. They were expelled from the Garden of God to live in a world writhing in the pain of their consequences.
So the Lord God banished them from the Garden of Eden, and he sent Adam out to cultivate the ground from which he had been made.Genesis 3:23 NLT
Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.Romans 8:20–22 NLT
A distorted portrait of God promises empowerment.
When Eve decided she wanted to complete the picture herself, she made a choice for all humanity throughout history. The serpent convinced her that the way God designed the portrait was lacking and that she could complete it better than the Creator. Satan became the god of the world.
Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.2 Corinthians 4:4 NLT
A distorted portrait of God alienates us from God.
Spiritual death resulted from the choices Adam and Eve made. Consequently, their sin broke humanity’s relationship with God, and the devastating consequences trouble us daily. As a result of the Garden encounter:
- Humanity disconnected from truth and connected with perversion.
- Humanity developed a distorted view of God’s image.
- Additionally, humanity created a delusional view of themselves.
- Humanity began exploiting others for personal empowerment.
- Humanity altered their purpose for living.
We are dominated by the negative emotions of shame, guilt, and fear, even while we search for love, joy, and peace. Because the world is not submitted to God’s authority, insecurity now invades the multiplicity of choices. Before the fall, the only choice that had to be made was to not eat of the tree! In our weak and helpless state, we search for acceptance and a place to belong, but we experience only emptiness, futility, and turmoil.
But God still desires to be in a relationship with us.
Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.Ephesians 1:4–5 NLT
Because of the sin that was passed to us, we are unable to be in a relationship with God. Violating God’s law and usurping His authority requires a death penalty.
When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.Romans 5:12 NLT
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 6:23 NLT
But God still desires to be in a relationship with us. Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, willingly became a human baby in order to pay the death penalty required on our behalf. Consider the sacrifice that was required to leave the throne of heaven to become a helpless baby! I cannot imagine reverting from an adult to an infant! How much more inconceivable to move from having all power and authority to having someone change your diapers!
God made a way to view Him correctly.
We may agonize as we witness the cruel death that He suffered. But the anguish of the cross can also be observed in the Garden of Gethsemane.
He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”Matthew 26:37–38 NLT
He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.Luke 22:41–44 NLT
Jesus knew that when He became sin for us, His father would not be able to be in a relationship with Him for that point in time because God can have no part with sin. The crisis of the cross was that Christ had to face the penalty of sin without God. So glibly we pummel through our day striving to be independent, inconsiderate of the consequences. But Jesus knew the horror of facing even one minute without a relationship to God. He modeled a life that was totally dependent on God. The trauma of the tragedy was that He willingly sacrificed His relationship with the Father in order to be in a relationship with you and me!
Will you change your perspective of God?
So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.
God has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill his own good pleasure. And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.Ephesians 1:6–11 NLT
Christ’s sacrifice does not automatically bring us into a relationship with God. We are faced with a choice. Who will be God of my world? By default, Satan is the god of this evil world, but by choice, God can take the throne in your life. You are free to make the choice to continue in your independence or to choose to live a life that is desperately dependent on God.
Will you accept the distortions as reality?
With our own fate in our hands, we fall for the same distortions that deceived Adam and Eve. Even one-third of the angels in the perfect environment of heaven believed the cunning lies of Lucifer. The movie The Jungle Book depicts Kaa the snake hypnotizing Mowgli while he stealthily wraps his coils to suffocate the unsuspecting victim. How often is that scene replayed as Satan deceives us into believing that our will is superior to God’s? We embrace the perversion over truth, while we demote God and promote ourselves as the authority.
For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.John 8:44 NLT
How do you see God?
In talking about our portrait of God, Michael Easley states, “It radically affects the way we see God seeing us. If we don’t have a clear theology of who God is and how we envision Him, then we’re not going to have a clear view of who we are before God and how we should then live.”1
In addition, read our post What Do You Believe About God? and complete the exercise to gain a more accurate perspective of your portrait of God. Your behaviors reveal what you believe about God. So, evaluate your distorted portrait of God based on your behaviors.
Psalm 16 Prayer Pattern to Gain an Accurate Perspective of God
Psalm 16 provides a Prayer Pattern to gain an accurate perspective of God. My distorted portrait of God radically impacts my life, but an accurate perspective of God fills me with love, joy, and peace. Use Psalms Prayer Patterns to pour out your heart to God while acknowledging your weakness and His strength, as you grow deeper in your relationship with Him.
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Excerpts from Desperate Dependency by J. Kirk & Melanie D. Lewis.
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1 Michael Easley, Proclaim! aired on WMBW on February 2, 2008.